The latest update from the inquiry noted that evidence is being reviewed from the first phase, and gave more detail on the work being done ahead of the second phase.
Last year, the inquiry began looking at the ‘factual narrative’ of the events, with expert witnesses describing the various safety failures in the tower and a ‘culture of non compliance’. After the inquiry resumed, a fire station manager stated that ‘vital’ plans were not able to be found in the lobby of the building. It then heard from 999 operators that due to a policy not to recontact callers, residents were not told to evacuate when policy changed.
In September, a fire commander stated that ‘the building let us all down’, before London Fire Brigade (LFB) commissioner Dany Cotton admitted she had no knowledge of cladding risks despite an LFB presentation created only a year before. Then, the inquiry heard LFB had ‘failed residents and firefighters’, and that a post fire audit of the building’s management company found only ‘minor weaknesses’ in its approach.
Finally, in December, it was revealed that the second phase ‘is unlikely to start’ until the end of 2019 because there are ‘more than 20,000 documents still to disclose’, with this ‘probably not’ completed before autumn. This second phase will examine ‘wider issues surrounding the fire’, with 686 firefighter statements submitted and 88 officers giving oral evidence. Over 20,000 documents have been disclosed and published, while over 14,000 documents in phase two have been disclosed so far.
The inquiry has now released another update, in which it notes that ‘work continues’ on the report from the first phase, while ‘preparations for Phase 2 hearings [are] well under way’. It added that chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick is ‘reviewing the full body of evidence’ from the first phase, is drafting his report and ‘hopes to complete’ it in the spring, while evidence will continue to be published relating to the first phase.
It also commented that the inquiry will ‘seek to carry out, as far as it properly can’ an investigation into the deaths caused by the fire ‘that will make it unnecessary for the coroner to pursue her own investigations’. The inquiry is consulting with legal representatives for the bereaved and ‘expects that by the autumn much of the available evidence relevant’ to answering questions about where, when and in what circumstances the victims died ‘will have been presented’.
On the second phase, this will focus on ‘aspects of the circumstances leading up to the fire that are likely to shed most light on the causes of the disaster’, requiring a ‘considerable amount of work’ to prepare for hearings. A ‘substantial number’ of individuals and organisations have been written to, with evidence and documents sought, and as of 28 February 540,000 documents had been received.
Disclosure of phase two relevant documents to core participants ‘is underway’, with each document received undergoing a review for relevance before disclosure, and 21,500 documents have been disclosed so far out of around 200,000 ‘relevant’ to the second phase.